Sold out 2024 Agents’ Choice Awards Gala a night to remember

Last night a sold out crowd of 472 travel industry personnel attending the Agents’ Choice Awards Gala at the Carlu in Toronto were the first to learn who came out on top as the cream of the crop in the industry across 43 categories.

“The reason we’re here tonight is to release the results of the 2024 Agents’ Choice Readership Survey. This year, the survey theme was Celebrating Momentum, which seemed appropriate when you consider that the past year has seen the industry riding a wave of heightened business activity and unprecedented growth. The struggles of three lost years are now barely a shadow in its rear-view mirror,” announced Bob Mowat, executive editor of Baxter Media. “And I can tell you that Canadian travel advisors were certainly feeling that momentum – voting in record numbers in this country’s only national and authoritative survey of Canadian travel advisors.”

Mark Pace, High Commissioner, Republic of Malta, Baxter Media’s Wendy and David McClung and Denise Demicoli, Consul General, Republic of Malta.

Notably, 6,938 travel advisors from across the country voted in the 2024 Agents’ Choice Readership Survey — a 7 per cent increase over 2023. Along with the awards, the lavish event featured a multi-course dinner, cocktail reception sponsored by WestJet, live entertainment, photo and video opportunities and even some elements of surprise like a mime and a humorous what-not-to-do safety video starring Baxter Media president David McClung.

“Tonight, with over 450 guests in this grand room, it’s a sign that you understand and value the importance of having your say in recognizing each other’s contribution to growth and success,” exclaimed Wendy McClung, executive vice president, Baxter Media. “This tells us that we need to keep the party going year after year. There’s no other coming together that celebrates everyone of you in this fitting way and that fosters a culture of recognition, collaboration, and innovation.”

In total there were 13 new favourites and 30 repeat favourites, including seven multiple award winners including Air Canada/Air Canada Vacations and G Adventures.

One of the big winners of the evening was Porter Airlines, who was named a favourite for the first time.

“It is an exciting and proud moment for Porter to be recognized by travel agents for providing Canada’s favourite economy class service. We have always had great support from the agency community and the last 18 months of growth has really allowed us to build more relationships across the country, including in markets that we previously didn’t serve,” Michael Curmi, managing director, sales & distribution at Porter Airlines told PressToday. “This recognition is a testament to Porter’s expanding coast-to-coast network and the elevated economy service that we are known for. We are reshaping traveller expectations and thank agents for supporting this effort.”

During the evening, Lucie Guillemette was announced as the recipient of this year’s 2024 W.H. Baxter Lifetime Achievement Award, an award that was launched in 2004 following the the passing of Baxter Media founder William H. Baxter.

“I have had the privilege to call Air Canada home for close to 40 years, and thanks to all of you tonite, I’m reminded of how blessed I am to have been given the opportunity to leave a small mark on this industry, and to have been able to contribute in my own way to its progress,” she shared on stage. “I owe a great deal to incredible leaders I have had the pleasure to work for, and who left a lasting impression.”

The evening also recognized some of favourite industry supplier representatives from coast to coast.

“We all can agree that without the supplier service reps or BDMs, the invaluable connection to a real person would be lost. This is what makes the travel agent/supplier relationship really work,” shared Wendy McClung. “Once again, travel advisors have spoken and tonight we honour 28 hard working individuals from across Canada representing 25 companies.”

Of the five new categories introduced this year, one of the key awards was The Momentum Award, which recognizes a supplier who has achieved success through consistently moving their business forward and, in the process, driving the success of its agency partners’ businesses to greater heights.

“Mondee brings together the best consolidators, technology, talent, and carrier relations to provide unparalleled content, which is powered by Mondee marketplace,” noted Janet Alkobi, vice president, business development, at Mondee Canada.

Celebrations also went late into the night as the European Travel Commission sponsored an afterparty featuring flamenco dancers, an Irish band and local specialties.

“We are thrilled to celebrate the remarkable achievements of our industry tonight; and on behalf of the European Travel Commission and member destinations, extend our heartfelt thanks to the dedicated travel advisors whose expertise and passion have been instrumental in making Europe a top travel destination from Canada,” said Sandra Moffatt, chair of the European Travel Commission. “With touches of European flair throughout the event, including live music; dance; art and more we hope to showcase the spirit of unity and hospitality that defines both the continent, and this industry. Together, we look forward to many more years of inspiring travel experiences and sustainable growth of travel to Europe!”